Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Drag and paramilitary honours

"Sammy Duddy was a colourful Belfast character who combined membership of one of the city's most lethal paramilitary groups with a career as "Samantha", a highly suggestive drag act."

"On one occasion, Duddy's home was attacked with a pipe bomb, while on another shots were fired into it. While he was uninjured, his pet chihuahua, Bambi, was hit by gunfire and died."

Now there's a unique one. By the way, McKie Watch: Spotted on the BBC's Front Row podcast, still can be downloaded till Friday, talking about killing off people early and the dangers of Wikipedia.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Must-see TV for obit writers

Thomas Lynch, the Michigan funeral director and incredibly talented award-winning writer, will be featured on PBS' "Frontline" Tuesday, Oct. 30.

Here's part of the PBS press release. For the rest, click the next word:

Tuesday, October 30, 2007, on PBS (check local listings).

“Every year I bury a couple hundred of my townspeople.
Another two or three dozen I take to the crematory to be burned ...
I sell caskets, burial vaults, and urns for the ashes ... I am the only undertaker in this town.”
-- Thomas Lynch

Thomas Lynch, 58, is a writer and a poet. He's also a funeral director in a small town in central Michigan where he and his family have cared for the dead -- and the living -- for three generations. For the first time, Lynch agreed to allow cameras inside Lynch & Sons, giving FRONTLINE producers Miri Navasky and Karen O'Connor rare, behind-the-scenes access -- from funeral arrangements to the embalming room -- to the Lynches' world in The Undertaking, airing Tuesday, October 30, 2007, at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings).

In his critically acclaimed book, The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade, excerpted in this film, Lynch chronicles a life spent in the presence of the dead.

"We have in some ways become estranged from death and the dead," Lynch believes. "We're among the first couple generations for whom the presence of the dead at their own funerals has become optional. And I see that as probably not good news for the culture at large."

The Lynch family believes that the rituals of a funeral are more than mere formalities. "Funerals are the way we close the gap between the death that happens and the death that matters," Lynch contends. "A good funeral gets the dead where they need to go and the living where they need to be."

. . . For Lynch and his family, their business has always been about more than just caring for the dead. "What I've written is that while the dead don't care, the dead matter," Lynch explains. "The dead matter to the living. In accompanying the dead, getting them where they need to go, we get where we need to be -- to the edge of that oblivion and then returned to life with the certain knowledge that life has changed."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Obituary writers get slammed for Wikipedia use

Wikipedia isn't perfect but it's very, very impressive - unlike those obituary writers writes the Observer. Among those who made the mistake was the obit writer of The Times. Bit of an amateur mistake - trusting Wikipedia rather than using it as a research tool to find evidence or otherwise elsewhere, and one which Wikipedia itself discourages - and not one any of our esteemed crowd would make, I'm sure. A bit harsh to blame all Wikipedia's ills on the obit writers, however.

Online learning: Obituary writing

The Poynter Institute, regarded by newspaper wizards as the Hogwarts of journalism, is offering an obituary writing course through its online learning arm, NewsU.

It costs nothing to register as a NewsU member/client/student or to take the obits course.

Most of the lessons come from "Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers" by Alana Baranick (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio), Jim Sheeler (Rocky Mountain News) and Stephen Miller (Wall Street Journal, New York Sun).

Alana (that would be me) is your obit-writing instructor.

Check it out at:

Tuesday, October 02, 2007